We don’t want to give you the impression that global warming isn’t a very real threat to the future of the planet, but it turns out it’s actually benefiting one part of B.C. At least, kind of.
Back in 1999, a mountain pine beetle infestation took hold of many of the province’s forests. Eventually, these insects spread to an area about five times the size of Vancouver as they gnawed and chewed away at the insides of trees. Normally, these beetles wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, they’re usually beneficial for forests because they tended to help clear away already-dying trees. But the unusually warm temperatures brought on by climate change allowed these insects to thrive longer than they would normally, multiply, and have devastating consequences on the environment.
As a result, forests in B.C. that were once capturing carbon were now releasing it back into the atmosphere as they were torn apart. It’s estimated that the mountain pine beetle infestation caused about one billion tonnes of C02 to be pumped into the sky, according to the Vancouver Sun.
But now, new research led by federal government scientists in Victoria has found that global warming might also be the solution to the problem it once created. The rising temperatures, higher rainfall and excess carbon dioxide resulting from global warming have actually begun to create a “fertilization effect” which is causing B.C.’s forests to grow back faster and larger than before. By 2020, researchers estimate that this speed in growth will be enough to offset the damage done by the infestation.
“The extended simulations to 2050 then suggest that the enhanced carbon uptake by the forests of BC in response to increasingly warmer and wetter climate and gradually increasing [CO2] more than compensates for the reduced carbon uptake associated with the recent MPB outbreak by 2020,” the researchers wrote.
This does not mean, however, that global warming isn’t something we should still be concerned about. The researchers actually note that the continued warming of B.C. can lead to other invasive species entering the province’s forests, potentially leading to even worse damage in the future.
“The future carbon balance of the province’s forests is, however, expected to be adversely affected by the likely increase in frequency of large insect disturbances associated with future warm winters which are known to increase winter survival of the bark beetles larvae.”
In other words, the cycle could very well repeat itself all over again.
So thanks for nothing, global warming.